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50 Years in 50 Weeks: 1989, Angels & AIDS

by Jim Provenzano

Bay Area Reporter

Thursday August 12, 2021

In addition to the disastrous earthquake (see this week's News edition of this series), 1989 was full of AIDS: Protests, drug treatments, the Nov. 16 eight-page wall of obituary photos, and the staged reading of a new play in progress about AIDS by Tony Kushner titled "Angels in America."

The April 13 advance article invited readers to two nights of staged readings of the work in progress. They would not have known that theater history was about to be made.

Writer Will Snyder was prescient enough to state that "theater-goers [would] take part in an exciting process — watching the development of a potentially exciting new play" for a mere $12.

But while mentioning the other characters (Stephen Spinella as Prior Walter), the article focuses more on the question, "Can Republicans be gay?" — specifically, the devious Roy Cohn (played by Bruce Williams), who is mentioned as lusting after Walter (the two characters never meet in the finished script). And the photo of director Oskar Eustis is mistakenly identified as playwright Kushner.

Nevertheless, it's interesting to have found possibly the earliest B.A.R. reference to the play, which later went on extended runs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, a Tony-winning Broadway run, the Pulitzer Prize, and Emmys for the HBO adaptation.

The world spins forward.

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